20 October 2012

Trial over – prison sentences passed down

The trial has finally come to an end. The judge passed down prison sentences ranging from two years for the under-age accused to between six and seven years for the older ones. The 'crown witness' was sentenced to six years.

The prosecution had demanded between four and five years for the under-age defendants and between six and 12 years for the others.

For all defendants, the time they have already been detained is subtracted from the sentences. For the under-age defendants this means they will not have to go back inside.

For the adult defendants this means that two years and six months will be taken into account.

More info to follow.

19 October 2012

Emotional words in court

Court Report Day 104 – 17 October 2012

The last closing addresses and emotional words from the accused.

The last closing addresses were given by the lawyers for one of the under-age accused. They largely followed the arguments of their predecessors but also stressed that the trial had officially been a youth trial. However this did not show during the trial.

Then the accused each made a personal statement. They all spoke about their families, their situation in Somalia, hunger and war and what drove them to participate in the attack on the Taipan, for which they apologised.

They talked about how desperate their were in custody not being able to help their families. “Without the help of my lawyers, my family wouldn't be alive anymore,” said one of them.

Some talked about how they have been thinking about suicide.

They all seemed to be afraid of the future, when they might be imprisoned. “I won't have a lawyer then,” said one of them.

One of the accused caused a stir when he told the court that the 'crown witness' had taken control of the Taipan. The defence of another accused asked the court to investigate this statement, which would have meant re-opening the trial. The court rejected the application.

On Friday, 19 October, the trial will in all likelihood finish and the verdict and sentences will be passed.

16 October 2012

Court Report Day 103 – 15 October 2012

There are two more closing addresses outstanding, which will likely be held on Wednesday, 17 Oct, meaning the verdict and sentencing might take place on Friday, 19 October.

First, the defence for the 'crown witness' read a statement by their client. He apologised to the court, saying that during the last trial date he had been outraged and unwell. He didn't want to talk about his family. The names he had originally given were correct, later on he had given wrong names out of fear. His cousin had been killed in a car accident in Somalia, and it was possible that he had referred to him as 'brother', which was common.

A phone number stored on his phone was that of his father, another number did belong to one of the organisers of the attack, but he had only wanted to use it contact his family, but never actually used it.

He didn't want to talk about what had happened prior to the attack on the Taipan. He maintained that he had been the translator and not the leader, naming another accused as the actual leader.

That person's defence then made two applications. The first one was to hear as an expert witness a security expert who had written an article about piracy attacks and the role of safe rooms. The witness could verify, according to the defence, that the accused never had a chance of taking the crew hostage and that therefore the charges should be reduced to attempted hijacking, rather than hijacking.

The second application was to hear a London lawyer who had negotiated with pirates and knew the clan structures in Somalia. He would be able investigate the relatives of the 'crown witness' in London. This was important because the 'crown witness' had always denied having a brother in London, and the court was obliged to investigate his credibility.

Both applications were declined and the judge declared, once again, the end of the trial. In addition, the prosecutor stated that the 'irritations' that had been caused by the 'crown witness' last time had been sufficiently clarified.

This was then followed by more closing addresses, which mostly referred to the speeches that have already been given.

The defence for the accused who had been the first to make a statement in court stated that their client's role had been to bail the skiff during the attack. He had therefore not carried a weapon. He had been acting out of dire necessity because he had seen no other way to feed his family. “Who knows how we would have acted,” asked the defence.

The defence claimed that the court and the prosecution had been out of their depth during this trial. The defendant's wish to be kept together with other Somali-speaking prisoners had been used against him and he had been kept in isolation as a result. The defence concluded by asking for a prison sentence of four years.

The defence for another accused criticised the court for holding the trial here. The lawyer had changed his opinion on this and was now convinced that the trial should have been held closer to the defendant's family. He was also convinced that the decision to extradite the accused to Germany had been a political one.

Referring to the Indian crew of the dhow Hudhud, he criticised the court for not exploring the possibilities to having them interviewed in India, instead having been driven by the media who had claimed that the trial was costing too much.

The lawyer said he was especially outraged about the court's refusal to grant his client bail with the argument that he was better of in prison in Germany then free in Somalia. He demanded his client be acquitted.

The remaining closing addresses will be heard on Wednesday, 17 October 2012.

07 October 2012

Court Report Day 102 – 27 September 2012

The judge declared that the court would - once again - revert to gathering evidence. This was due to an application made in August 2010 – before the trial even began – by the accused who had become the 'crown witness' later on. The application stated that the accused had heard that his brother had died in a car accident and he had therefore applied for permission to phone his father.

However, the name and signature on this application were different from the name the accused had later given the court. The judge said that both the name and the reasons given for the phone call were in contradiction to what the accused had later told the court. When asked to explain the differences, the accused said that he could only remember making the application but couldn't remember any details.

The accused then became agitated and asked why things that were written two years ago would be relevant today, which prompted the judge to repeat his questions.

The court then took a break but never resumed because the 'crown witness' was declared unfit for trial for the rest of the day.

The following trial date (which would have been day 103) was also cancelled due to illness of the 'crown witness'.

The next scheduled trial date is Monday, 15 October 2012.